Responsibility, accountability, and transparency. These three words are the clarion call of the Fourth Estate, not merely a demand but a code of ethics that many in the legacy media use to bolster their credibility. But what happens when these concepts are ignored? What happens when fake news with no recourse prompts the crafting of policy?
A prominent Washington-based newspaper ran a correction on March 11 about a story in which it claimed that following the November election, President Donald Trump attempted to coerce one of Georgia’s top election officials to “find the fraud,” telling her she would become a “national hero.” These quotes were falsely attributed to the former president, and the paper printed that they were in error. However, despite the almost unremarked upon correction, the damage had already been done.
The Snowball Effect
When these false statements were first reported, just about every national news outlet regurgitated the lies, creating a groundswell against the president. Democrats threatened to use these words as the basis for impeachment proceedings, and bills have been written to counteract actions that did not, in reality, take place.
From little acorns grow great oaks.
As Liberty Nation reported on Jan. 4 in response to the story:
“The phone call in question is now the cause du jour of spin doctors and the activist media. It has become a cudgel with which to denigrate the president and cast his requests as something nefarious rather than a search for answers.”
Because the fake news was swallowed hook, line, and sinker, all requests regarding electoral integrity by the president were tainted with the idea that he was seeking something dishonestly. Despite the correction some two months later, the damage had already been done.
President Trump responded to the correction with more than a little bitterness. In a statement, he wrote, “A strong democracy requires a fair and honest press. This latest media travesty underscores that legacy media outlets should be regarded as political entities – not journalistic enterprises.”
A Legacy of Fake News
If this incident were a one-off, the former president would perhaps not be so chagrined. But it isn’t. It is simply the latest in a long string of fake stories attributed to “unnamed sources” that did so much to damage his presidency.
Some of the more sensational fake news stories of the last few years include:
- That the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to win the 2016 election.
- That the president called white supremacists “very fine people.”
- That scientists, as reported in The New York Times, were afraid of publishing a climate study under the Trump administration (it had been published seven months prior to the story).
- That President Trump removed a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office.
The list could go on and on. It demonstrates not just simple errors but a coordinated effort to craft a narrative that is both false and insidious.
With a hit-and-run car accident, it is not the “hit” element that results in the greatest stigma; after all, accidents happen. It is the “run” factor that shows a callous disregard for the potential danger to life or injury and the cowardice in not sticking around to face the consequences. When an individual commits this crime, it hurts those involved. When it is performed time and time again by the once-lauded Fourth Estate, it is the nation that is the victim, and its citizens that are the injured party.
Read more from Mark Angelides.